Todd Anderson / ABC
March 28, 2014
Who they are: Frankie and Mike Heck (played by Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn, respectively) and their three kids, Axl (Charlie McDermott), Sue (Eden Sher) and Brick (Atticus Shaffer), are the epitome of the word "average." The working-class, semi-dysfunctional Midwestern family faces many everyday struggles familiar to real families -- making ends meet after getting laid off, juggling work and parenthood, and dealing with neighbors, bullies, teachers, bosses and relatives -- with cynical humor and a sense of resignation.
What the kids like: From Axl's exaggerated teenage angst to Sue's eternal optimism and continual failure to Brick's odd habit of whispering to himself, the characters provide plenty of PG-rated laugh-out-loud moments. Though the kids bicker constantly, they come through for each other when it counts.
What the parents can't get enough of: Knowing that they're not alone in daily struggles, like getting a teenage son to wear pants in the house or mentioning a huge homework assignment before the due date. And, hopefully, parents watching "The Middle" can rejoice in the fact that at least they're better off than the Hecks. Unlike Frankie, they didn't mistakenly eat their son's toenail clippings from a potato chip bag.